Joe Strange - Fearless Everton are filthy rich in belief
Published: 22 Feb 2010 - 07:55:05
Despite the obvious temptation, I've somehow managed to resist the urge to wax lyrical about Everton for almost three months.
Maybe that's going a little bit too far but after recent performances few could argue that David Moyes' men have proven themselves as a match for any side in the league.
After an extremely unlucky defeat to fierce local rivals Liverpool at the end of November, the Blues have gone on to lose just three of their last 17 games in all competitions, with only one of those defeats coming in the league.
As well as being one of the most in-form sides in the top flight, the Toffees' achievements have been made even more impressive by the calibre of opponents they've come up against in recent weeks.
Draws at Stamford Bridge and the Emirates preceded home wins over Manchester City, Chelsea, Sporting Lisbon and Saturday's victims, Manchester United.
Although in all likelihood they won't come away with any silverware of their own this season, Everton's convincing victory over the current champions could have a decisive effect on the final destination of this year's Premier League trophy.
Combine this with a 2-1 win over Chelsea the week before last and the Goodison Park outfit have quickly become favourites among many Arsenal fans, despite holding the Gunners to a share of the spoils in early January.
But what is it that has transformed Everton from relegation candidates to Champions League chasers in just 11 short weeks?
Moyes has assembled a small but talented squad of players over the past few years, a squad full of self-belief and team spirit, two key ingredients which have contributed to three successive top six finishes.
But as talented a squad as it is, the terrible injury crisis which hit the Blues at the end of last season and the beginning of the current one left them desperately short of both quality and quantity.
This was unfortunately transmitted to on-field results with away defeats to the likes of Hull City, Bolton and Burnley proving a far cry from the club's excellent record away from Goodison in the previous league campaign.
However with the return of first-team stars such as Steven Pienaar, captain Phil Neville and the influential Mikel Arteta, Evertonians worldwide have witnessed a dramatic upturn in the club's fortunes.
Add in the inspired loan captures of American ace Landon Donovan and experienced defender Phillipe Senderos and all of the sudden the squad exudes a much greater strength in depth.
As well as the improvement on the injury-front, the confidence from a couple of good performances has continued to grow and flow throughout the team and backroom staff.
Moyes admitted after Saturday's triumph that he told his players to go out and win the game - there's no fear in the Everton dressing room at the moment, just a squad of players who play for one another and have huge faith in their abilities as individuals and as a collective.
Everton are living proof that you don't need a foreign billionaire to be successful, for the good of the league let's hope they can cash in on one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent years and push for a spot in that elusive top four.
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- A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.
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